Research on body esteem (weight and appearance esteem) and weight suggests that having a positive body esteem may be associated with more stable weight trajectories during adolescence, and adolescents with higher weight report lower levels of body esteem. However, bidirectional relationships between body esteem and weight have not yet been examined. This 3-year longitudinal study examined (1) bidirectional relationships between body esteem and body mass index (BMI) and (2) how BMI and body esteem changed together throughout adolescence.
Participants (N = 1163 adolescents, at time 1 [T1] baseline; 60.3% female) from a school-based community sample completed surveys approximately annually for 3 years.
Latent growth modeling revealed that (a) among boys and girls, appearance and weight esteem scores decreased over time, (b) higher initial BMI scores were associated with slower decreases in appearance esteem over time. However, evidence for bidirectionality was not found, in which baseline appearance and weight esteem did not predict changes in BMI over time and vice versa.
Results suggest that changes in BMI and body esteem are co-occurring (rather than predictive) throughout adolescence. The decreasing trajectory of body esteem over time suggests the need for prevention efforts to improve body esteem throughout adolescence.